An exercise habit helps us to lose fat safely, effectively, and for the long-term. However, fat-loss occurs rather gradually for most people. Often, the lack of immediate results causes us to give up on exercise. That's why a strong exercise habit that lasts a long time is often built upon a desire to be healthy overall and an innate enjoyment of exercise, rather than our weight on the scale.
The keys to success in maintaining a good exercise habit include:
Knowing what exercise can do for us;
Knowing how to exercise;
Avoiding over-reliance on temporary motivators, such as vanity, to motivate us to exercise.
1. Knowing what exercise can do for us
I spend a lot of time answering questions about exercise on Quora.com, and most of the exercise related questions I ever answer have something to do with losing the most amount of weight as fast as possible and losing fat in specific spots.
Questions like these highlight the fact that we often don't understand how fat loss occurs. Moreover, it hints that we may not be considering the many different health benefits of exercise brings to us. In a perfect world, I would expect people to ask me how much they should exercise in order to avoid high blood pressure or high cholesterol (some of the top risk factors for global deaths every year). Harvard Health Publishing writes that
Exercising regularly, every day if possible, is the single most important thing you can do for your health.
2. Knowing how to properly exercise
Proper exercise on a consistent routine delivers fat-loss results over time, but often we don't learn the basics of exercise before trying to lose fat. This makes us unlikely to lose any fat, even if we exercise - because we're exercising improperly. Sometimes, we can overtrain ourselves and end up getting even more fat. Other times, we aren't getting to a level of intensity that allows us to get the vast majority of the benefits of exercise.
A lack of exercise understanding often leads us to give up on exercise, because we don't get to feel good, we don't get visible results, and we just feel like we're wasting our time.
3. Avoiding over-reliance on temporary motivators, such as vanity, to motivate us to exercise.
As time passes, some of us want to spend more time on our careers, on fulfilling our life purpose, or in spending quality time with friends and family. We realize at some point that there are more important things to worry about. This is great, and I am all for moving towards a society where vanity doesn't hold us hostage, but the problem is that once people stop caring about how they look, they often stop exercising (if they were exercising to begin with).
So we stop exercising.
A friend of mine, who was quite fit for all his life, got married and decided to stop working out. He reasoned that he doesn't need to look good anymore because he's happy with his marriage. Unfortunately, he has put on a lot of fat since he gave up exercise and is becoming unhealthier every day.
When we aren't aware of the benefits of proper and consistent exercise, it's hard to understand why we should engage in it at all. Exercising provides us with practical value beyond enhancing our appearances. Exercise is about feeling great, maintaining our health, and preventing some of the most deadly diseases known to man.
We must enlighten ourselves about the benefits of exercise in order to get the most out of exercise
Exercise helps us to move better and have a better daily quality of life.
For many of us, getting to the point where we are able to move about our daily lives with less pain, and greater ease, agility, and energy is a great motivator. It's readily apparent through measurement of how far we can run, how fast we can run, how much weight we can push, what kinds of positions we can place our body in, and how long we can hold those positions, for instance.
Exercise feels great when we know it's worth it for us.
For example, we are highly motivated to exercise when we know that every weight-lifting repetition goes towards investing in long-term muscle fibre "infrastructure" and an increased metabolism that keeps fat away.
Learning to be mindful and highly aware of how our body feels through exercise is also a great reward.
A "pumped" or "swollen" muscle is an indicator that enough strength training has occurred for us to get the numerous health benefits of strength training. By lifting, sweating, and pumping our muscles, we can learn to be excited to know that we are burning calories, improving our circulation, protecting ourselves from frailty in old age, and creating a fat-burning machine within our own bodies that we get to carry with us everywhere we go. It's a great immediate reward for exercise.
Once we've learned to associate sweat with endorphins, serotonin, adrenaline, dopamine, and various endocannabinoids being released in our bodies, we also begin to learn to love running and doing other cardiovascular activities. We understand that each drop of sweat is getting us closer to attaining or maintaining the "high" of energy, bliss, happiness, optimism, and increased health through lowered blood glucose, higher ability to transfer oxygen to our muscles, and lowered cholesterol.
Being intimately aware of the invisible benefits of exercise helps us to feel rewarded when we do exercise.
I've spoken about the various health benefits of exercise before, but I have another one I want to go in-depth on today.
Immediately after cardiovascular exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity of 20 to 40 minutes, our bodies increase our production of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) by about 32%. BDNF is "known to be involved in [neural cell] development and growth, mood regulation, and cognitive functions such as learning and memory".
The above are the kinds of reasons that I've been able to use to develop a strong love for exercise.
As a result, I simply lose excess fat as a by-product of my love for proper and consistent exercise. The weight loss almost happened without me noticing, and I think it could for all of us as well.